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Turkey: Defendants to Be Permitted to Use Mother Tongue in Court Statements

(Jan. 25, 2013) The Grand National Assembly (Turkey’s parliament) adopted a law on January 23, 2013, which, among other stipulations, allows suspects to use their native languages in court when giving defense statements. The controversial provision, which created a brawl among legislators of different parties, will bring to an end a long campaign by Kurdish activists to establish the right for languages other than Turkish to be used by defendants in court. The provision is the outcome of an agreement reached in Oslo between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), based in Iraq, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey. (Amid Brawls, Parliament Endorses Law to Allow Kurdish in Courts, TODAY’S ZAMAN (Jan. 23, 2013).)

The legislation amends the Code of Criminal Procedure (Ceza Muhakemesi Kanunu, Act No. 5271 (Dec. 4 2004, as last amended July 5, 2012), Turkish government website), as well as the Law on the Execution of Punitive and Security Measures (Ceza ve Güvenlik Tedbirlerinin Infazi Hakkinda Kanun, Law No. 5275 (Dec. 13, 2004, as amended through Aug. 8, 2011), Turkish government website). The change to article 202 of the Code on Criminal Procedure, adding a new paragraph 4, will allow suspects to “be able to use the language they feel serves the purpose of expressing themselves best when submitting their defense.” (Amid Brawls, Parliament Endorses Law to Allow Kurdish in Courts, supra; Text of the Proposal, Republic of Turkey Ministry of Justice website (last visited Jan. 24, 2013). Expenses for courtroom translators are to be paid by the state. (Amid Brawls, Parliament Endorses Law to Allow Kurdish in Courts, supra.)